What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) is an American psychological horror film produced and directed by Robert Aldrich. The screenplay by Lukas Heller is based on the novel of the same name by Henry Farrell. In 2003, the character of Baby Jane Hudson was ranked #44 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 Best Villains of American Cinema.

Tagline:  Sister, sister, oh so fair, why is there blood all over your hair?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe0ymqALj54]

Trivia:

  • The curious teenager who lives next door to the Hudson sisters is none other than Barbara Merrill, Bette Davis’s real-life daughter.
  • The wig Bette Davis wears throughout the film had, unbeknownst to both leads, been worn by Joan Crawford in an earlier MGM movie. Because it had been re-groomed, Crawford didn’t recognize it.
  • During production, Bette Davis had a Coca-Cola machine installed on the set to anger Joan Crawford, whose late husband had been CEO of rival Pepsi-Cola and who herself was on the board of directors of that company.
  • During the kicking scene, Bette Davis kicked Joan Crawford in the head, and the resulting wound required stitches. In retaliation, Crawford put weights in her pockets so that when Davis had to drag Crawford’s near-lifeless body, she strained her back.
  • While touring the talk show circuit to promote the movie, Bette Davis told one interviewer that when she and Joan Crawford were first suggested for the leads in this film, Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner replied: “I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for either one of those two old broads.” Recalling the story, Davis laughed at her own expense. The following day, she reportedly received a telegram from Crawford: “In future, please do not refer to me as an old broad!”
  • The final scene at the beach was filmed in Malibu, California at the same spot where director Robert Aldrich filmed the final scene of Kiss Me Deadly (1955). When Blanche confesses the truth to “Baby Jane”, you can see in the background that same house that was “blown up” by a mysterious box containing radioactive material in “Kiss Me Deadly”.
  • The producers originally wanted Peter Lawford to play Edwin Flagg. Bette Davis also originally objected to Victor Buono’s casting but eventually came around.
  • Because she was then a member of the Pepsi-Cola board of directors, Joan Crawford managed to see that product placement shots of the soft drinks appeared in all of her later films. Although nearly imperceptible, Pepsi does show up in this one. During the last sequence, a guy runs up to the refreshment stand on the beach and tries to collect the deposit on some empty Pepsi bottles – a transaction that actually only happened in stores.
  • Cracked head of Baby Jane doll featured prominently in ad campaign was a completely different doll than that used in movie – probably because movie was filmed and released so quickly that ad staff had to devise campaign while film was still in production.
  • In addition to her trademark number “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy”, the young Baby Jane apparently had other hit songs in her act. When Edwin prepares to play the piano for their rehearsal, we see Jane’s picture featured on old sheet music for songs entitled “Fly the Flag of Freedom”, “She’s Somebody’s Little Girl”, and “I Wouldn’t Trade My Daddy”.
  • The scenes from Jane’s early films that show her to be a flop as an actress are scenes from Parachute Jumper (1933) and Ex-Lady (1933). When Bette Davis heard that the crew was looking for poor footage of her from that time, she (half-jokingly) suggested that any of her films from the period would do.
  • Joan Crawford was an avid collector of Margaret and Walter Keane’s “sad eyes” paintings and befriended the couple and tried to incorporate their work into her films. In the film, during the interior scenes of the neighbor’s (Mrs. Bates) house, several Keene paintings can be seen displayed on the walls.
  • Early in the film, actor Bert Freed playing a film director can be seen wearing a necktie that’s not tied in a knot, but is instead crossed over held on by a tie clasp. That was a trademark look of the movie’s director Robert Aldrich, and was placed there as an inside gag.
  • A freeze-frame just as the car enters the driveway in the prologue reveals the secret of who was driving the car the night Blanche was paralyzed.
  • Bette Davis had been nominated for Best Actress in her film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), which also starring Joan Crawford. If Bette had won, it would have set a record number of wins for an actress. According to the book “Bette & Joan – The Divine Feud” by Shaun Considine, the two had a life long mutual hatred, and a jealous Joan Crawford actively campaigned against Bette Davis for winning Best Actress, and even told Anne Bancroft that if Anne won and was unable to accept the Award, Joan would be happy to accept it on her behalf. According to the book – and this may or may not be 100% true, but it makes a good anecdote – on Oscar night, Bette Davis was standing in the wings of the theatre waiting to hear the name of the winner. When it was announced that Anne Bancroft had won Best Actress for The Miracle Worker (1962), Bette Davis felt an icy hand on her shoulder as Joan Crawford said “Excuse me, I have an Oscar to accept”.
  • According to Bette Davis in her book This N’ That, this film was originally going to be shot in color. Bette opposed this, saying that it would just make a sad story look pretty.
  • This film can be seen as a tragic continuation of the story of the film Gypsy (1962). The sibling rivalry of the blond child star Baby Jane (Baby June in Gypsy) and the brunette sister, who has a Hollywood career as an adult.
  • In scenes where Jane imitates Blanche’s voice, the voice heard is actually Joan Crawford’s voice, and not Bette Davis’, as Bette could not master Joan’s voice properly.
  • This film is considered by many as Joan Crawford’s last important picture. After this film, Joan was typecast in some lesser horror pictures until her last picture in 1970 and her last TV appearance in 1972.
  • In 1962, this film was a smash hit, grossing nine million dollars initially. In 2009 dollars, this amount would adjust to approximately $64,279,370.86.
  • In her book, “This N’ That”, Bette Davis said she had a lot of control over how her makeup should be done for the film. She imagined the older Jane as someone who would never wash her face, just put on another layer of makeup. When her daughter, B.D. first saw her in full “Jane” makeup, she said, “Oh, mother, this time you’ve gone too far”
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